Mother shares photo of 5 week old in hospital in warning to anti-vaccine parents
Meghan Mcnutt-Anderson's daughter, Brielle, is seen in hospital in this image that was posted to Facebook on April 1, 2014. (Facebook / Meghan Mcnutt-Anderson)
Marlene Leung, CTVNews.ca
Published Tuesday, April 8, 2014 10:56AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, April 8, 2014 6:30PM EDT
An Ontario mother is sending a warning to parents who choose not to vaccinate their children, with a now-viral photo of her five-week-old daughter who ended up in hospital after contracting whooping cough.
Meghan Mcnutt-Anderson's infant daughter Brielle contracted pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, a highly contagious bacterial infection that affects the lungs and airways. Tuesday marks the 10th day she’s been in hospital.
Whooping cough is particularly dangerous in infants, and in serious cases can cause vomiting, weight loss, pneumonia, convulsions, brain damage and even death.
The best protection against the infection is getting a vaccination. But because children don't get immunized for whooping cough until they're two months old, Brielle has not yet been vaccinated, her mother said.
So in an attempt to remind parents of the risks they expose others to when they purposely choose to not vaccinate their children, Mcnutt-Anderson shared her story online.
In an April 1 Facebook post, she shared a photo of Brielle in hospital along with a short description of her situation. Her post quickly went viral, with more than 37,000 people sharing it as of Tuesday morning.
"This is why you immunize your children!" she wrote in the Facebook post.
"We have spent the last three days in the hospital at her bedside holding her up and patting her back as she coughs. You see, every time she coughs, she stops breathing, turns blue and goes limp. She has too much mucous and her airways are too small to cough it up and they become blocked and we have to manually help her pass it. We will likely be doing this to Brielle for the next 2 weeks at least."
Mcnutt-Anderson has not responded to CTVNews.ca’s request for comment, but in an update to her original Facebook post, she said she simply wanted to share her daughter’s story with friends and family.
“Wow! When I wrote this I had no idea how far it would be shared. I would like to give a heartfelt thank you for the hundreds of private messages I've received of well wishes from across the globe,” she wrote Tuesday.
“My intention here was never to start a public debate, but rather to share our story with friends and family. We need all the positivity we can get right now, so I will not be opening up commenting to the public.”
In the original post, Mcnutt-Anderson said that people who purposely choose not to vaccinate their children put infants like hers in a vulnerable situation.
"Brielle is too young to be immunized yet and children whose parents chose not to immunize them, put small babies like Brielle, as well as others with compromised immune systems, at risk," she said. She added that had they not taken Brielle to the hospital, she could have died from a coughing fit.
"If you are considering not immunizing your children, think first about the people you put at risk who can't get the immunization. If our story makes one parent choose to immunize their children that otherwise wouldn't have, lives can be saved."
She said the family hopes to take Brielle home “in the not too distant future.”
McNutt-Anderson posted her photo as public health officials in several different Canadian provinces contend with outbreaks of measles – another vaccine-preventable disease.
A warning was issued last Friday of possible measles exposure in several different health-care facilities in Brampton, Ont., after a baby tested positive for the disease.
Another exposure warning was issued after it was confirmed that the same baby had travelled on a flight from Abu Dhabi to Toronto on March 25.
Meanwhile, a March measles outbreak in British Columbia's Fraser Valley region saw up to 320 confirmed cases. The outbreak was declared on March 8, after two cases were reported in the city of Chilliwack. The outbreak is believed to have started in an elementary school, before spreading into the broader community, a region with low vaccination rates.
Public health officials maintain that the best protection against diseases, such as whooping cough, is vaccination. When a large majority of a community is immunized against a contagious disease – known as "herd immunity"-- it protects those individuals who are not able to receive vaccinations, such as infants, pregnant women or people with compromised immune systems.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, between 1,000 – 3,000 people become ill with whooping cough each year. During a 2010 California outbreak, 10 infants died and more than 9,000 people became ill.
Symptoms of whooping cough include fever, runny nose, red watery eyes and a severe cough. The infection is especially dangerous for children under the age of one, and symptoms for infants include a severe cough that can cause choking, poor feeding and difficulty breathing.